There’s not a whole lot I enjoy more than diving into a digital card game. Whether I’m deck building or engaging in epic cardboard battles, very little makes me more excited than drawing a handful of cards and figuring out the best way to use them. Most people I know find the prospect of getting into a card game pretty intimidating though, and I don’t blame them. Outside of something like Hearthstone or Marvel Snap, video games involving cards are usually pretty complex and generally require a lot of learning before the fun begins. Aces & Adventures reduces that learning curve considerably, by swapping out complex mechanics with poker.
Aces & Adventures takes place in a fantasy world, with a narrative told entirely through decks of cards. Each chapter of the game is represented by a different pack of cardboard rectangles, generally involving your adventurer of choice wandering through caves, mountains and forests and encountering baddies in need of slaying. The actual stories told are fairly by the numbers, more reminiscent of choose your own adventure books than the works of Tolkien, but the battles are the real star of the show.
Where other Deck Building games might feature cards with different abilities, attack values and effects, Aces & Adventures uses regular playing cards to simulate fighting skeletons or dragons. For each round of combat one side will attack with the best poker hand they have available, and the other will try to top it with their own cards. If your Jack beats their ten then you’ll deal a single point of damage to the enemy HP, whereas if they have two Queens and you don’t have a pair at all you’ll take two damage. It takes mere minutes to understand this simple but effective combat system, and the nuance slowly builds from there.
As well as attacking with your playing cards every turn, you’ll also draw an ability card that can be used in certain situations. These can be as simple as dealing damage or blocking attacks by discarding certain suits of cards, or as complex as dealing bonus damage to adjacent enemies after hitting a successful attack. These powerful abilities definitely shake up the combat, adding the perfect layer of extra complexity to an otherwise simple back and forth.
Once you win a fight and continue on your adventure, you’ll usually be offered the opportunity to choose some sort of reward. Often this is a choice between healing your hero, gaining handy single use equipment, or levelling up. When at all feasible I always went for the level up, because when your character gets stronger they can choose between a few different passive skills that’ll help them beat up even the toughest foes. Your warrior might start off feeling weak, but once they gain a shield to block damage every turn and get the opportunity to attack twice in a row they become unstoppable.
Dealing with mechanics like levelling up and gaining new equipment would be a lot to manage, if not for the fact that each adventure you go on lasts about twenty minutes. After each of these mini campaigns you’ll be reset back to zero and expected to earn your strength back next time around, which gives you plenty of room to experiment with picking different passive abilities without being locked into a less than ideal build for hours. It also makes Aces & Adventures ideal to play in short bursts, which means it’s the perfect Steam Deck game.
Although your chosen hero loses all their kit and levels between campaigns, that doesn’t mean you can’t make them consistently stronger. After every adventure you’re given a selection of new ability cards you can swap into their deck to upgrade their arsenal, as well as mana vials that you can use to level up their class via a weird plant. First you’ll unlock the ability to Mulligan a card at the start of an adventure, then some new perks to try out when you level up, and eventually even bonus health for feeding the card plant, and with enough mana injected into your favourite hero they’ll be ready for the hardest mode in the game.
The true challenges of Aces & Adventures are Roguelike style runs, that take place on a Slay the Spire style grid. Starting (as always) from scratch, you’ll need to choose which fights and upgrades you want to travel towards on a grid, before finally facing a powerful boss which will require all your skills (and a bit of luck) to overcome.
The sheer amount of content in Aces & Adventures is extraordinary. There are dozens and dozens of campaigns, multiple different Roguelike style challenges, and a whole host of different classes who play completely differently to each other to level up and master. If you get as invested as I did in this delightful card game, there’s the potential to play it for hundreds of hours if you want to experience everything.
I’m absolutely smitten with this fantastic card game, but it does have a couple of issues. It can feel a bit overwhelming how often you need to check out the new ability cards you collect and swap them into your deck, especially when you’re upgrading the arsenal of multiple heroes at a time. There are also the narrative elements that are just too basic and dull to get invested in. It’s easy enough to skip past the humdrum story cards that talk about hiking through forests and stumbling into camps of monsters, but it’s not exactly a good sign that you have to.
Aces & Adventures is my new card game obsession, with easy to learn but hard to master combat, mountains of content and the perfect structure for short bursts of play. If you’re interested in trying out a deck builder but unsure where to start, this is the perfect game to jump into.
Easy to learn but hard to master card combat
Heaps of content
Ideal for short sessions or mammoth adventures
The Roguelike mode is fantastic
Can be overwhelming when you receive loads of cards at once
The narrative is bland